Now I’ll freely admit that ‘A Lonely Place To Die’ is at best borderline ‘Starburst’ material - I suppose part of the movie’s climax, shot amidst a ‘Wicker Man’-esque local pagaent edges the film towards our remit - but some familiar horror movie tropes are utilised here and there to give what is essentially a familiar ‘vacation-goes-wrong’ thriller a bit more edge than many of its type.
As a buttocks-on-couch kinda guy, I really don’t see the appeal of mountain-climbing or really anything else much associated with being up very high dangling on a bit of rope. But Alison (Melissa George) and her friend Ed (Ed Speleers) seems to be having a fine old time with their friends clambering about in the Highlands and spinning around on ropes and even an accident which almost kills Ed doesn’t dampen their enthusiasm. Pressing on into the cold, wild countryside, they discover a breathing tube sticking out of the ground and they quickly rescue from a makeshift coffin a terrified young Serbian girl who can’t speak a word of English. As they set off to return the girl to the nearest town, through harsh and unwelcoming Scottish terrain, they’re under attack by the kidnappers (one of whom is played by the brilliant, underrated Sean Harris). But the kidnappers are being tracked too, by the girl’s desperate, ruthless father who will stop at nothing to get her back.
‘A Lonely Place To Die’ is derivative stuff but director (and co-writer) Julien Gilbey tells his tale with some style and scale, the remote forbidding Highland setting giving our reluctant heroes a third antagonist to struggle against and Melissa George, fast becoming the go-to girl for low-key thrillers and horror movies (‘30 Days of Night’, ‘Triangle’) really throws herself into her role as the tough, no-nonsense action hero battling to stay one step ahead of her pursuers even if her determination to save a foreign girl she can’t even communicate with seems a bit overwhelming considering the personal sacrifices she has to make to protect someone she’s only just met.
For the first couple of acts, ‘A Lonely Place To Die’ is a brisk and bloody thriller, its bleak locations, often stunningly-photographed by Gilbey, giving the movie a real sense of desolation and hopelessness. Things start to go a bit wrong in the last third, however, as the survivors of the group make their way to a nearby Scottish village in the middle of some seasonal pagan festival and the film loses its bite and a bit of its focus as the ‘real world’ impinges on the storyline and Alison takes refuge at the local Police station, even though she’s not really safe there for very long.
Sadly the tension seems to dribble away for the rest of the film as the kidnappers rampage about the village, Harris’s character meets up with - and tries to bluff - the girl’s father who has her own bunch of assassins on hand. By the time the film rushes to its fiery conclusion the plot’s lost much of its appeal, any sense of mounting dread and horror has evaporated, sacrificed for the sake of a few shoot-outs but there’s at least some shred of satisfaction in seeing the merciless Harris getting his come-uppance.
Enjoyable without being especially memorable ‘A Lonely Place To Die’ is efficiently-made and has its moments and least marks Gilbey out as a director who, with a stronger story and perhaps a greater faith in his original concept - the Highland chase scenario would have been enough if he could have just maintained it - could be capable of something very special indeed in the future.
Expected rating: 6 out of 10
A Lonely Place To Die is in UK cinemas now